Sunday, June 30, 2013

Just watched...

...Ang Lee's "Life of Pi."

I know I am coming to "Life of Pi" a little late but I must be very careful how I write about this film so as not to ruin it for anyone who, like myself, may not have seen it. I was happy that I had not read any reviews or spoilers so I could digest the film on my own terms. And here are my terms: 1) this is a visually stunning film, absolutely gorgeously filmed and rendered with some perfectly seamless special effects that do not call attention to themselves but instead serve to further the story, 2) the film is expertly crafted thanks to Ang Lee, and masterfully acted thanks to Suraj Sharma in the thoroughly exhausting role of Pi, and finally, 3) no one told me how supremely upsetting, disturbing, and horrifying the film actually is. All of the literature I have read about the film since I have seen it talks about how the film is about religion and god, but I find it is absolutely not about either of those topics. If anything, it is a strong case for atheism. If we really want to talk about how the universe operates, this film is a perfect example of the complete indifference with which it treats all living creatures... and inanimate objects as well, for that matter. "Life of Pi" really addresses the psychological damage that can be inflicted on a person, and how one copes with the damage, specifically the fairy tales we tell ourselves to insulate from harm.

I won't say any more about the plot because anything I want to dissect and disagree with is essential to the pace and unfolding of the story.

Recommend? *sigh* Yes, I guess so. But while it is a pretty movie on the outside, it is not the least pretty on the inside. There is a lot to comprehend once you buy into the premise.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Misc. Paris Fashion Week, June 2013

As usual, a wrap-up of miscellaneous details and elements from the Spring-Summer '14 collections seen at Paris Fashion Week, June 2013.

Raf Simon's cute, colorful moon boots:

Goths... and technicolor Goths at Comme des Garçons:

Great chukka boots with color bands at Sacai:

I love these SUPER wide cut trousers at Acne...

...and these super high cut trousers from Damir Doma:

And finally, instead of pictures, I want to share the feature about Umit Benen's collection which was an homage to his homeland and an effort to keep a certain culture from disappearing.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Thom Browne

Paris Fashion Week saves the most spectacular, over-the-top displays for last. And Thom Browne's reputation for spectacle and OTT-ness precedes him. Although his '14 Spring-Summer cricket-themed collection for Moncler did not thrill me (I passed it over for posting on "Oh, By The Way," and instead prefer to recall the Scottish Highlands extravaganza he presented for Moncler's '13-'14 F-W season, here), I was hopeful for a lush '14 SS collection for his own eponymous label. Careful what you wish for as the saying goes. It seems as if Mr. Browne has lost his mind--again--and I love him for it. Browne has been presenting theatrical events to showcase his clothing for a long time. He is not afraid to take inspiration from the strangest or most unusual of places (witness last season's Amish-themed show here!), and he is not afraid of a grand statement. And his '14 SS statement is pretty charged.

Let's face it: his menswear is ultimately subversive. He has been feminizing traditional tailoring and menswear ever since he put a model in a fur stole for his first collection in 2006. Browne has augmented the staple of men's suits with what is generally thought of as "feminine" accessories, shapes, or cuts such as skirts and aprons. He even put models in versions of Flapper dresses, pearls, and cloche hats for his '12 SS collection, here. While elevating and paying homage to the "male" silhouette, he has, at the same time, tried to pry it apart, loosen it up, to loosen its fear-based death grip on the trappings it uses to prop itself up. There really is no such thing as anything essentially "masculine." Masculinity defines itself not by any inherent qualities but by being the opposite of "feminine." Masculinity is a construct. By contrast, the feminine simply is. Masculinity looks at it and says, "I am whatever you are not." This is where misogyny and homophobia come from.

As it goes with fashion, design, architecture, painting, music, novels, then so it goes with the psyche of the people, of the time, the zeitgeist. This is not just about fashion, not about only something to put on your body, but about the evolution of culture and people's spirits. And in this way, Thom Browne is working to break down rigid, self-imposed barriers that lead masculinity to lash out at anything that could disturb its artificial sense of itself. In the end, what is "masculine" or "feminine" clothing? Is a skirt feminine? Well, men have worn kilts and wrap-around garments for centuries. Is a dress feminine? Men have been wearing tunics for centuries. Are soft fabrics and high heels feminine? Let's look at the aristocracy over the course of centuries and see men wearing heels, silks, satins, furs. Is a purse feminine? Men have carried their belongings in pouches for centuries (and really, isn't a businessman's brief case just a hard, rectangular purse?). These garments and objects themselves have no gender...they are inanimate. They can be used equally by women and men alike. The psychology that Browne is addressing here is that men can wear a skirt, an apron, a tunic, a ruffle, a heel, or the color pink (I find it amusing how some men have a literal crippling phobia of that color) and none of that says anything about the personal value, strength of character, or sexuality of the man wearing such things. Browne's work calls into question the ideas of "masculine" and "feminine," and urges us to find the inner qualities that make us human, not the outer, superficial qualities that stamp us as "masculine" or "feminine."

Some excuses for a masculine construct: 1) "I am a man because I wear a suit/pants." Well, what if, for some strange reason, all your suits/pants get destroyed and there are only sundresses and skirts at the clothing bank of the shelter that takes you in after the hurricane/ flood/ tornado/ remaining climate-change-induced disaster? When you put one on, do you physically transform into a woman? Don't be ridiculous, of course not. 2) "I am a man because I hunt/kill things." What if you are forbidden from ever hunting or killing anything again? What if a woman next door to you hunts and kills then? Do you stop being a biological male? Again, of course not. 3) "I am a man because I can father a child." What if, for medical reasons, you cannot father a is the case with many, many men in the world. Do you cease having a penis, do you instantly turn into a woman? How stupid, of course not. These ideas about gender and roles are how undeveloped psyches go about imposing order. This is the heart of the current anti-gay backlash against gay marriage and gay civil rights. When you base your sense of yourself on ideas that are hollow, it is easy to knock those ideas down. But if you know who you are at a deep, cosmic level...if you have looked inside yourself and mapped out the shape of your soul, then that cannot be shaken.

Too heavy for a blog post about fashion? Only if you are looking at the surface. Clothing at this level is all about culture, psychology, how we see ourselves, and how we wish to be seen. Browne's collection here is actually quite stunning, working with all the concepts I have just been talking about. For this current collection, he has the bravado to take the most obvious, the most sacrosanct of male signifiers, the armor-like military uniform, and mash it with voluminous A-line ankle length coats, puffy skirt-length overcoats (with crinolines keeping the shape?), pinafores, a ruffled sock, and blood red lipstick to accompany the mirrored aviator-frame sunglasses. What could be more subversive?

He really accomplishes a lot in the signature Browne colors of red, white, blue (which he has somehow miraculously, and thankfully, never connected with the American flag), and black. Narrowing down the uniform to a naval theme, anchors are everywhere, in jacquards, embroidered on hems, and appliquéd on trousers exactly over the crotch. But when you really think about, isn't military dress parade the ultimate pomp, the ultimate primping and preening, the strutting of one's "stuff" (hence the big, erect feathers on caps) the "feminine" elements end up feeling like enhancements rather than intrusions. The peplums below the tight jackets fit right in, essentially creating a two-piece top.

Like most of his collections, the presentation may be all Browne (today's show fittingly took place at the École Militaire), but once the pieces are separated and make their way to stores, there are some special and very wearable moments in this collection. Most of these coats would look great on their own. Most of the tight-fitting jackets would look great with jeans. Also of note is a clever way with a cummerbund... the pleats that are part of a classic cummerbund create bands of fabric. Browne put a tone on tone box with stars in the upper left, and voilà, the United States flag in all black (last row, middle photo).

But the denouement came when a military figure in a very full, black PVC ball gown-like coat (with a twenty-foot long train carried by two attendants) presented a folded, all white flag, as if at a military funeral. Who died? Hopefully the previously discussed constraining ideas about masculinity and gender.

"Walking Lightly" by Junip

Here is a beautiful live version of "Walking Lightly" from Junip, filmed in a garage...with the heavenly voice of Barbarossa backing José González. I saw them play this live on June 1--read about the show here.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


CHVRCHES cite acts such as Prince, Tubeway Army, Robyn, Laurie Anderson, Depeche Mode, and Kate Bush as influences. How could I not like them?

"Came Back Haunted" by NIN

The throat is deep and the mouth is wide
Saw some things on the other side
Made me promise to never tell
But you know me, I can't help myself

Now I've got something you have to see
They put something inside of me
The smile is red and its eyes are black
I don't think I'll be coming back

I don't believe it
I had to see it
I came back haunted
I came back haunted

I said goodbye but I --
I had to try
I came back haunted
C-C-C-came back haunted

Everywhere now reminding me
I am not who I used to be
I'm afraid this has just begun
Consequences for what I've done, yeah

I don't believe it
I had to see it
I came back -- I came back haunted
C-C-C-came back haunted

I said goodbye but I --
I had to try
I came back -- I came back haunted
I C-C-C-came back haunted

They tried to tell me but I --
I couldn't stop myself and I --
I came back -- I came back haunted
C-C-C-came back haunted

Just can't

New release "Hesitation Marks" due on September 3rd, 2013.
Tour, too.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Miharayasuhiro

If florals are the trend for this season, Mihara Yasuhiro, of the fashion house Miharayasuhiro (a small distinction worth pointing out... well, I am not sure how worthwhile it is to point out, but I am doing so anyhow), bucked the trend with a poetical '14 Spring-Summer collection whose inspiration was birds. Specifically feathers. Embroidered wings spread across trousers, peacock feathers bopped around jackets, and multi-colored pheasant almond feathers were grouped in tight formations to form a texture begging to be petted. I really love the relaxed, loose trousers in the center of the second row. Note: gold leaf in the hair!

Friday, June 28, 2013

BEAUTY: Clothing--Ann Demeulemeester

The always flowing, darkly romantic Ann Demeulemeester showed a gorgeous '14 Spring-Summer collection at Paris Fashion Week. Inspired by the concept of a lazy Sunday afternoon in spring, the collection features black, flocked wisteria (florals truly are this season's Hundredth Monkey moment) spreading across jackets, pants, even shoes... mixed with awning stripes that bring to mind a circus: what could be more fun on a Sunday afternoon? The pastoral connections are certainly old-fashioned (relaxing in a pergola covered with the glorious purple vine, or going to see jugglers and acrobats in a big tent on the edge of the village) as is Demeulemeester's typical softly deconstructed Edwardian silhouette (some models sported cloche hats of woven straw). Black and white gave way to the bright red of The Big Top. But that was a momentary burst before the lovely, watery blues and denims. And by the time the collection evolved into indigo and the palest pink, it was truly beautiful. Romantic, breezy, historical.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Maison Martin Margiela

I was prepared to skip over Maison Martin Margiela's '14 Spring-Summer collection but I am glad I forced myself to look closer. The experimental art lab and design collective is known for deconstructing fashion, for putting it under a microscope, or for alienating it to the point where they position themselves outside of the fashion industry itself. They are also known for recycling...or rather I should upcycling, as the word now materializes. And that ethos was quite in evidence in this subtle, blink-and-you'll-miss-it collection.

The bottoms of blazers and suit jackets were cropped and attached, hybridized if you will, onto tops, tees, and shirts with a waist-high belt. A mutated button up shirt featured extra cuffs at the elbows. Sleeveless coats showed their lining, with felting on the outside. And rust-stained fabrics looked as if they have been sitting in a garage for years covered with iron pipes and tools. I am reminded of an old Police song in which Sting sings: "When the world is running down, you make the best of what's still around..."

Oh, and kudos to MMM for their casting of real men, a few with some mileage. Pretty boys are a dime a bland compared to these authentic, and yes, sexy specimens (I'll take bearded gingers 3 and 4, lovely...*sigh*).

BEAUTY: Clothing--Dries Van Noten

Dries Van Noten is a genius with pattern. No one else manages to use pattern so subtly but come up with such grand, effective results. Such is the case with his '14 Spring-Summer collection at Paris Fashion Week. Combining florals with a military theme, the entire collection is cumulative... it builds and grows into a fascinatingly rich texture. Yes, all collections and designers take a theme and riff on it, letting it build and grow, but this was different, deeper. While renowned drummer Cindy Blackman Santana (wife of Carlos Santana) beat out a fierce, jazzy tattoo, the models paraded dusty, dusky florals, inspired by fabrics, patterns, and prints that Van Noten has encountered in the archives of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, while planning for his upcoming career retrospective there next year.

As a brilliant contrast to all of the beautifully dense and layered flowers, or possibly as a perfect compliment, Van Noten brought in military notes in extensive and gorgeous embroidered gold bullion detailing on dashing coats and tight jackets that brought to mind Navy pea coats and Army parade dress. The gold bullion also showed up, playfully, on loose surf shorts. The 18th century Rococo prints played very well with the regimental sense, creating a kind of WAR AND PEACE/ANNA KARENINA vibe for me.

This could be the season of the floral, with blooms and blossoms showing up at Gucci, Phillip Lim, McQueen, and Prada.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Haider Ackermann

Although he has been designing women's fashion since 2001, Haider Ackermann just showed his first official menswear collection at Paris Fashion Week (he showed a one-off collection at Pitti Uomo in 2010). Here, his '14 Spring-Summer collection is at once classic Ackermann and not. Present is the simple, avant-garde cuts in luxurious fabrics like duchesse satin, jacquard, and silk. But enhancing this is a pretty forthright, potent, almost challenging masculine sexiness. Despite the luxe materials and fringed scarves, Ackermann's models are almost all uniformly--and heavily--tattooed. These louche rockers, Teddy Boys, and all-around dudes dripped an indolent attitude that indicated they could either fight you or have sex with you, it is all the same to them. Trousers are cut tight with a looser, dropped crotch (my favorite: the black silk pair embroidered with green dragons), and jackets and coats are sophisticated and slouchy at the same time--witness a sleeveless smoking jacket. The clothes created the attitude, and the attitude created the clothes. A decadent collection for rough bad boys...the contrast works perfectly.


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Same-sex marriages were set to resume in California on Friday, after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a surprise order lifting an injunction preventing the unions.

The order came in response to an opinion released Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court that effectively killed a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages in the state.

Within moments of the ruling, couples, officials and activists began to converge on San Francisco City Hall, where unions were due to resume immediately.

"On my way to S.F. City Hall," tweeted the state's attorney general, Kamala Harris. "Let the wedding bells ring!"

Reporting by Dan Levine; Writing by Sharon Bernstein and Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Gary Hill and Eric Walsh
Link to original Reuters article here.

Happy Pride Anniversary!

Happy Pride Anniversary!

Forty-four years ago today, a bunch of fed-up drag queens, hustlers, and assorted gay misfits at the Stonewall Inn in New York turned the tables on a harassing police raid. That resistance gave rise to a series of riots and ultimately to the birth of the modern gay activist movement. It seems like a long time ago, and things (laws and minds) have changed, but we still have a long way to go, and a lot more irrational fear, hatred, bigotry, and misconceptions to fight.

But today, we thank the brave men and women at Stonewall and the ensuing riots for saying, "ENOUGH. I AM A HUMAN BEING AND I DEMAND TO BE TREATED AS ONE!"

There is a very nice, informative Wiki entry about the riots and the history leading up them:

BEAUTY: Clothing--Walter Van Beirendonck

Paris Fashion Week is underway and as usual, we are seeing some amazing artistic creations.

Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck, one of the original Antwerp Six (with other notables Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester), is always highly entertaining, bringing a fascinating, in-your-face, sometimes puzzling, sometimes annoying "art school" sensibility to his collections. Sale-able? Wearable? No, he is making artistic and psychological statements with cloth and materials instead of paint or clay. Same thing.

His '14 Spring-Summer collection is entitled "Home Sweet Home" and while it seems avant-garde, and may even contain references to schools of art that existed during the early part of the twentieth century (Cubism, Dadaism, Fauvism), he literally means "home"--his home. He created prints that show a Persian rug on a floor, walls (cleverly created with extra panels sewn onto jackets) and art (by the American Pop Artist Scooter La Forge) hanging on those walls. Word is that these images come from Van Beirendonck's home that he shares with his partner Dirk Van Saene in a little village outside of Antwerp. Wood plank flooring occupies the lower half of outfits while wallpapered walls and furniture occupy the topmost half. It vaguely reminds me of Frankie Morello's '13-'14 Fall-Winter collection in which they employed images of buildings and building materials such as plank and marble flooring. But where Frankie Morello's suite was hard-edged and urban, here, Van Beirendonck softens the concept of home with some sweet, flowing creations, full-length python opera gloves for men, a Klaus Nomi-looking tux ensemble, and glittered Marcelle-waved hair. But of course Van Beirendonck wouldn't be Van Beirendonck if he weren't pushing some buttons. Check out the shoes featuring, ahem, erect male members...worn with socks woven with images of roosters (who often go by another name) and snails. The signified and the signifiers. Infusing this domesticity with sexuality seems sly but perfectly understandable. Domestic scenes exist because of sexuality.

BEAUTY: Clothing--Rick Owens

Rick Owens took a turn with his '14 Spring-Summer collection at Paris Fashion Week. Called "Vicious," models stomped around while the Estonian thrash-metal punk band Winny Puhh played in, um... compromising positions: the lead screamer got to stand but the instrumentalists in wolf masks were hung upside down by their feet. And the two drummers were bolted onto a vertical spinning platform (watch the video)!

The black and white clothing was just as furious as well, while retaining the Rick Owens asceticism. He has left behind the ecclesiastical robes and futuristic tunics of the past many seasons for a sense of savagery, of slashed and torn garments, yet still seen through the Owens minimalist lens. Tim Blanks of reports that Owens was inspired by his early punk days in Los Angeles: Owens said he wanted a "cheerful viciousness, viciousness with humor. I felt like doing something ludicrous and fun." Laser cut materials and sheer mesh dominated. Highlights include a great fringed belt, and forward-looking buckled Pilgrim shoes and boots.

No matter what he does, Owens is never boring.